Pollsters of both parties see the backlash against health care as a long time in the making and Election Day, the inevitable cumulation of that discontent. But Democratic pollsters warn Republicans that if they interpret the midterm results to be a directive to repeal and replace health care law, then it will be their folly come 2012.
In general elections, young people and minorities are much more likely to vote, and Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg predicts the pool of likely voters is "going to very quickly move to a different audience, many of whom are very clearly beneficiaries of these healthcare reforms."
Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, disagrees, saying "overwhelming majorities of Americans" believe the health care law will increase their premiums, health care costs, taxes, and federal deficit, while simultaneously decreasing their quality of care.
"The top priority of Americans [has been] controlling health care costs and controlling health insurance premiums," said Ayres. "They think this bill does exactly the opposite. And that's the fundamental problem."Legislators failed to listen to the public when they "crammed" the health care bill through Congress, said Ayres, which is why opposition to health care law has been increasing according to an average of surveys on Pollster.com.
The White House and Democratic leadership have predicted public sentiment towards the health care law will soften once it's implemented.
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said a key voting bloc, senior citizens, have been "scared to death" about the health care law but, "I think in two years when the seniors recognize that it hasn't cut their Medicare, in fact improved their preventive care [and] improved their prescription drug coverage, they're going to have a different opinion of the bill."
If Republican strategists criticize Democrats for believing the public will support health care if they improve their messaging, then Democrats say the fault of Republicans would be to interpret a wave of success on Election Day as an indication the country has rallied behind them.
"Republicans this year do not have an advantage on party image, they have not gained in popularity since the 2008 election, so one part of what they will have to live with afterwards is why they've emerged out of this, whatever the outcome, as a party the country has not rallied to," said Greenberg. "This [election is] about the Democrats. But it's a unique election because they've managed to push so many voters away through [the health care] process."
Greenberg, Ayres, and Lake were all panelists at a media event hosted by "Health Affairs," a peer-reviewed journal on health policy. You can watch the entire dialogue here. In two weeks, the pollsters will unveil their findings of how the health care bill impacted this year's elections.
In the meantime, AEHQ is asking for your comments. Do you think Election Day results should signal to politicians whether to repeal and replace health care?